Understanding Lament

by Bob Allen:

When was the last time you considered the word lament?

A lament is an expression of sorrow and grief. A lament expresses that things are not as they should be. A lament cries out about a frustration, a missed opportunity, a tragedy, a loss, an injustice, a circumstance, some earthly thing which does not reflect what we either want to be true or know to be true.

I think about old country songs, those sad, “I’ve got a tear in my beer” ditties about how your wife left you for the plumber, your truck broke down, someone ran over yer dog, and your mama’s in prison for killing your daddy. There’s a whole genre of music called “the Blues”, best described as guttural groans about being down and out set to driving guitar licks meant to reflect the profound angst of something lost. They’re all examples of laments, of people trying to put into words the deep-in-the-heart pain which cannot be silenced any longer. The cathartic cry simultaneously relieves a burden carried too long and ramps up anxiety for a next wave of trouble which may or may not come. But for a time, as the grief breaks out and lays bare held-tightly-to-the-chest fears the millstone threatening to plunge to the depths feels a feather.

Lament has been part of human existence since the garden, yet we simultaneously shun and embrace its place in our lives. These outpourings of grief, of bereavement, of despair, of woe prompt our hearts to examine the imperfections so evident in this life. No one likes to lament. It is painful. Our longing for better days, for restoration, for healing, for protection, for the “other” we know exists but cannot seem to find increases the sense of loss.

But we are not the originators of lament.

As much as we mourn the life we don’t have, can’t have, our God weeps over the loss as well.

In his providence and wisdom, God created the universe and within that indescribable environment he created a special place and special beings for a special purpose: to reign and rule over what he had made. And for a time, everything was not just good, but very good. It was as he had planned it.

But of course, it didn’t stay that way.

Through the fall of the very first couple recorded in the Bible, Adam and Eve, to the question of whether or not he was “good”, God suffered loss. God, through no fault of his own, was separated from his beloved creation and scripture contains account after account of God grieving over the loss. Consider this, because of the fall, God has lost billions of human beings throughout the course of history to hell. The One who loves perfectly, who in his love gives life and breath to all, the One who made a way for his creation to both know him and return to him, loses millions everyday.

In times of sorrow, it is easy to believe God is far off, that no one understands, that the world will always be a place of pain. But this is not the word the gospel speaks.

The gospel reminds us that God was not satisfied with the loss. He did not resign himself nor his creation to separation. The God who laments made a way to wipe away the tears, to restore what was broken, to find what was lost. The God who created the universe and everything in it, who knows when a single sparrow falls, stepped down from heaven, broke bread with his creation, celebrated weddings and wept over deaths. He is familiar with suffering, with emotional pain, with loss, and in his compassion, he accomplished reconciliation so that one day, the lament will end. The separation will be over and his people will be with him for eternity. The gospel transforms the tears of mourning, the tears of loss, into tears of joy.

Lament now, it is good to do so.

It reminds us that things are broken.

It also reminds us that it will not always be this way.


Photo by Ben White on Unsplash


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